Jean Knight

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Jean Knight
Birth nameJean Caliste
Born (1943-01-26) January 26, 1943 (age 79)
New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
Genres
Occupation(s)Singer
Years active1965–present
Labels
Website1jeanknight.com

Jean Knight (née Caliste, born January 26, 1943)[1][2][3][note 1] is an American R&B and soul singer from New Orleans, Louisiana. Launching her professional career in the mid–1960s, Knight is perhaps best known for her 1971 hit single, "Mr. Big Stuff" released by Stax Records.[4]

Biography[edit]

Early years[edit]

She was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, to Louis Joseph Caliste (died 1953)[5] and Florence Edwards.[6][5] After graduating from high school, she began singing at her cousin's bar, 'Laura's Place' and caught the attention of many different bands who were willing to accompany her. In 1965, she recorded a demo of a cover version of Jackie Wilson's song "Stop Doggin' Me Around."[citation needed] Her demo attracted record producer Huey Meaux, who signed her to a recording contract at the Jet Star/Tribe record labels.[6] Shortly thereafter, she adopted the professional name of "Jean Knight," because she felt that her surname Caliste was too hard to pronounce. Knight recorded four singles, making a name for herself locally, but was not able to attract any national attention. By the late 1960s, it was obvious that Knight's career was not living up to her high expectations, so she went to work as a baker in the cafeteria of Dominican College in New Orleans.

Success at Stax[edit]

In early 1970, Knight was discovered by songwriter Ralph Williams, who wanted her to record some songs. With Williams' connections, Knight came in contact with record producer Wardell Quezergue. In May of that year, Knight went to Malaco Studios in Jackson, Mississippi, for a recording session during which she recorded "Mr. Big Stuff." After the session was finished, the song was shopped to producers at several national labels, all of whom rejected it. But when King Floyd's hit "Groove Me" (also recorded at Malaco Studios) became a #1 R&B hit in early 1971, a producer at Stax Records remembered Knight's recording of "Mr. Big Stuff," and released it.[6] The song also proved to be an instant smash in 1971, reaching No. 2 on the pop chart and becoming a No. 1 R&B hit.[6] It went double-platinum and received a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female; it lost to Aretha Franklin's version of "Bridge Over Troubled Water." It sold over two million copies and was awarded a gold disc by the R.I.A.A.[7] Knight performed the hit song on Soul Train.[8] An album of the same name proved to be fairly successful.[4] A couple more minor hits followed,[4] but disagreements with her producer and her label terminated Knight's involvement with Stax.

Later years[edit]

After leaving Stax, Knight recorded songs for various small labels, but was not able to gain any more recognition,[6] and ended up performing and touring the local oldie circuit. Things changed in 1981, when Knight met local producer Isaac Bolden, who signed her to his Soulin' label. Together, they came up with a song entitled "You Got the Papers but I Got the Man," an answer song to Richard "Dimples" Fields' record, "She's Got Papers On Me"; that song was leased to Atlantic Records for national release.[6] Soon, Knight found herself touring consistently. In 1985, Knight gained more recognition when she covered Rockin' Sidney's zydeco novelty hit, "My Toot Toot,"[6] and found herself in a chart battle with Denise LaSalle's version. While LaSalle's version reached the top ten in the United Kingdom, Knight's version was the more successful in the U.S., reaching No. 50 on the pop chart.[9] Knight was then given a chance to perform it on the TV variety show Solid Gold. The song also became Knight's only hit in South Africa, reaching No. 3.[10]

Although Knight waited twelve years to come out with another recording, she continued touring and performing engagements all over the world, particularly in the Southern states. In 2003, Knight performed her biggest hit, "Mr. Big Stuff", on the PBS special Soul Comes Home. Knight continued to tour and make live performances, often with such artists as Gloria Gaynor. In October 2007, the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame honored Knight for her contributions to Louisiana music by inducting her. Knight's song "Do Me" appeared on the 2007 Superbad soundtrack.

Personal[edit]

Knight has been married at least twice and has at least one child.[11] Knight married Thomas Commedore[12] and together they had a son, Emile Commedore.[11] In the early 1970s, Knight was married to New Orleans longshoreman Earl Harris.[11]

Discography[edit]

Studio albums[edit]

Year Album Peak chart positions Record label
US
[9]
US R&B
[9]
1971 Mr. Big Stuff 60 8 Stax
1981 Keep It Comin (with Premium) Cotillion Records
1985 My Toot Toot[6] 181 Mirage
1997 Shaki de Boo-Tee Ichiban Records
1999 Queen ComStar
"—" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released in that territory.

Compilation albums[edit]

Singles[edit]

Year Single Chart positions Album
US Hot 100
[9]
US R&B
[9]
AUS
[13]
South Africa
[10]
1964 "The Man That Left Me"
"Doggin Around"
Non-album singles
"Lonesome Tonight"
"Love"
1965 "T'ain't It the Truth"
"I'm Glad for Your Sake"
"Anyone Can Love Him"
"A Tear"
1971 "Mr. Big Stuff"
"Anyone Can Keep Living These Memories"
2 1 Mr. Big Stuff
"You Think You're Hot Stuff"
"Don't Talk About Jody"
57 19 Mr. Big Stuff
(included on the album as a bonus track after the album's rerelease)
1972 "Carry On"
"Call Me Your Fool (If You Want To)"
44
"Helping Man"
"Pick Up the Pieces"
"Do Me"
"Save the Last Kiss for Me"
1973 "Jesse Joe (You Got to Go)"
"Dirt"
Non-album singles
1975 "Don't Ask for 24 Hours"
"Hold Back the Night"
"Jesse James Is an Outlaw"
"Hold Back the Night"
1976 "What One Man Won't Do Another Man Will"
"Rudy Blue"
1981 "Anything You Can Do (I Can Do As Well As You)"
"Gossip"
Keep It Comin'
"You Got the Papers but I Got the Man"
"Anything You Can Do (I Can Do as Well as You)"
(as Jean Knight & Premium)
1983 "La De De - La De Da" (Vocal)
"La De De - La De Da" (Instrumental, Sing-A-Long Track)
Non-album single
1985 "My Toot Toot"
"My Heart Is Willing (and My Body Is Too)"
50 59 62 3 My Toot Toot
"Let the Good Times Roll"
"Magic"
1990 "Mama's Baby" (Rap)
"Mama's Baby" (Instrumental)
Non-album single
1997 "Bill"
"Bus Stop"
Shaki De Boo-Tee
"—" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released in that territory.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Official records state that Jean Caliste, aged 16, married in June 1954, indicating a birth year of 1938.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Biography: The Official Jean Knight Website". Retrieved September 26, 2021.
  2. ^ Eagle, Bob L.; LeBlanc, Eric S. (2013). Blues: A Regional Experience. p. 183. ISBN 9780313344244.
  3. ^ Jancik, Wayne (1998). The Billboard Book of One-hit Wonders. Billboard Books. p. 302. ISBN 9780823076222.
  4. ^ a b c Huey, Steve. "Biography: Jean Knight". AllMusic. Retrieved July 26, 2010.
  5. ^ a b "Miss Jean Caliste in entry for Calliste and Louis Joseph Caliste, 1953". FamilySearch. Retrieved July 18, 2020.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h Colin Larkin, ed. (1993). The Guinness Who's Who of Soul Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 153. ISBN 0-85112-733-9.
  7. ^ Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 296. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
  8. ^ "Soul Train - Season 1, Episode 11: Jean Knight/ The Delfonics/ Maurice Jackson/ Ralphi Pagan". TV.com. December 11, 1971. Retrieved August 13, 2015.
  9. ^ a b c d e "Jean Knight - Awards". AllMusic. Archived from the original on March 13, 2016. Retrieved April 7, 2022.
  10. ^ a b Brian Currin (May 25, 2003). "South African Rock Lists Website - SA Charts 1969 - 1989 Acts (K)". Rock.co.za. Retrieved August 13, 2015.
  11. ^ a b c Higgins, Chester (August 12, 1971). "Jean Knight: New 'Big Stuff' of Show Biz". Jet. Vol. 40, no. 20. Johnson Publishing Company. pp. 56–59. ISSN 0021-5996.
  12. ^ "Thomas Commedore and Jean Caliste, 28 Jun 1954". FamilySearch. Orleans Parish, Louisiana, United States. Retrieved March 10, 2018.
  13. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 169. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.

External links[edit]